This has been one of the most amazing hunting months of my life. First I received a call from my good friend Brandon Bach. His son Lucas was signed up for The Wayne Knaak Memorial Youth Hunt held at Lick Creek Game Preserve in Pekin, IL. This event is put together by the Spoon River Chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and he had a prior commitment with his daughter to a college visit so he asked if I would be interested in taking Lucas. Of course, I said yes. I was actually excited to take Lucas and be a part of this event again. A few years ago, I took Kaitlyn Bach and my daughter Ella to the event. It is a great occasion, and the guides really go out of their way to make sure you get on some pheasants. This event takes place annually so please keep that in mind if you are ever interested in taking a youth hunting. Great experience for a youth hunter. They also feed you some breakfast and lunch, and if I must say so myself, I would go just for the food. At the end of the event they give away a nice youth shotgun to one of the kids in attendance. I really enjoyed taking Lucas to the event and hope to do it again next year.
After the youth hunt it was time for me to prepare for my week in Missouri bow hunting. This was my third year being able to hunt this property and it has become one of my favorite places on earth. It has some of the most beautiful views over a river valley and the deer here get to be giants. I feel very blessed with this opportunity and can only hope that maybe I will get to enjoy it again in the future.
I finished my deliveries for the month and immediately headed to Missouri the last weekend of October. It was setting up to be a magical week. Looking at the temperatures, they were about to drop. The first real cold front was coming in and the full moon was on Saturday the 28th. The pre rut should be in full effect and it looked like the rut would be in full force the week we were there to hunt.
As Saturday morning came, the air was crisp with a slight breeze. You could finally feel fall in the air. As the sun rose up over the hilltop, its morning colors were breath taking as always. I could hear Turkey going crazy, squirrels were up early jumping and chasing each other from tree to tree. The coons were heading back to their den and then the deer started to appear on the horizon. In the first half hour of being there, I had a three small bucks walk right under my stand. It was pretty much a constant flow of deer all morning. Many young deer without their mothers and a bunch of small bucks cruising, looking for the first doe to come in heat. There is no way to describe this place to anyone. It is one of those parts of the world you really wouldn’t believe unless you experience it yourself. Throughout the first morning I saw over a dozen does and seven different bucks. Only one buck was a mature whitetail, and he kept his distance at 80 yards. I was entertained by all of the animals. The first morning along with seeing deer, I had a flock of 22 turkeys around me, but of course they stayed 50 yards away and never gave a great shot. I thought for sure as the week went on I would at least take a shot at one, but I wasn’t there for the turkey I was there for big luey. I figured if I got a nice deer then I would concentrate on getting a turkey.
After a couple of days of sitting in that same stand, I decided it was time on Tuesday to switch it up. There was a stand about a half mile away from where I normally sit that has had some bigger deer showing up on cameras. So, I left the young’uns in the back corner and headed to the middle of the property with a little more heavy cover and some smaller crop fields. As the sun was rising over my back, I saw a small doe coming trotting in at about 100 yards. Just behind her was a really nice, big ten point with some very white tines. He immediately became the buck I was after. I watched him most of the morning as he would just stare at the doe and when she laid down, he would go 50 yards away and do the same. As I watched him lay down, I looked over and coming down this old dirt road was an absolute giant. He had six points on one side not counting his brow tine. Five of those tines were at least 15 inches. The problem was he was through the timber at about 125 yards and I couldn’t see the left side at all. I couldn’t believe the two bucks I had already seen plus a few smaller bucks and several does. This buck was definitely the largest deer I have ever seen rack wise while hunting. So now I have two big boys on my mind. The wind really picked up and was blowing 22mph with wind gusts of 43 mph. I was thinking I was going to give it another hour and call it a morning to get some breakfast.
After watching the big deer go off in the distance, I then decided I needed to stand up and turn around. My eyes were watering staring into the wind, so I needed a little break. As I stood up, I looked to my back right and here came a nice wide ten point. He wasn’t a giant, but he was a good mature buck. I decided to get the bow ready and if he stepped out where I thought he would I would let him have it at 20 yards. Sure enough, he came right to the spot and I let the arrow fly. It was the weirdest reaction I have ever had from a deer. I heard the smack and saw the wound and he just hopped for about 20 yards and stopped all hunched up. I thought he was going to go down there but after a couple of minutes he wandered another 20 yards and stood there. I could see some blood and it looked like a good shot, so I was confused about what was going on. After what seemed like another five minutes, he was about 30 yards and looked like he is going to go down. I couldn’t tell with the tall grass if he fell or just laid down. I decided to give him an hour and a half before going to look for him.
After an excruciating hour an a half, I decided to get down and start looking for my arrow and blood. I found my arrow and it was covered in decent blood. I knew it was a good hit, so I started tracking the blood. I found pools of blood where he stopped so I just continued to take my time and follow the blood. Once I got over to where I thought he laid down, there was nothing and my heart sank into my chest. There is no way this is happening again. I am still beating myself up over a couple of years ago when that happened. I continued on the blood and all of the sudden he popped up and ran across the road into a different section of the property. I was heartbroken and mad as hell. I have been practicing a lot more with a bow the last few years so that doesn’t happen. I knew where the shot was, and it was a broadside shot. It should have come out low on the other shoulder. Should be double lung but it definitely was not.
After kicking him up I just backed out and decided I would give him the afternoon and evening to expire. It was going to be cold enough over night as long as the coyotes didn’t get him maybe I would have a chance to recover him. It was a long sleepless night. I woke up early tossing and turning, so I just got up and got the coffee ready and started my day. I hunted my normal location and saw plenty of deer, but I wasn’t going to shoot anything until I knew I can’t find the other deer. At 10:30 I was over it I just wanted to go find my buck.
I texted Marc Flynn and said I was heading in and when he was ready, I was wanting to go see if we could track the deer. He was finishing up hunting anyway and met me at the house. We grabbed the four-wheeler and headed to his last known location. As we started up the track again there was not much blood. A few drops here and there but nothing major. As we were walking by the creek, we kicked up a decent buck and my heart sank again. After looking at the deer standing there, I realized it was the ten point not the buck I shot. The blood became nonexistent but I decided to not give up. I took the easiest path thinking he would be doing the same with his injuries. I walked one side of the creek glassing all over the area for about 300 yards. I thought to myself I guess it is over I might as well move on.
As I was deciding to head back, I thought well I covered this side of the creek lets cross over and see if the is along the bean field or down in the creek. I crossed the creek and walked back about 200 yards and decided to stop and take a look. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he laid dead as a doorknob. Probably around 100 yards from where we last saw blood.
I started looking at my shot and it was maybe and inch or so farther back than I would like but it sure didn’t look like a bad shot. I turned him over and the arrow and went out by his back leg. I was shocked. The only thing that could have happened was I hit a rib and it ricocheted back. It ended up clipping one lung then went through the liver and into the guts. I will never understand how it didn’t just blow the rib at 20 yards but I can say one thing these animals are as tough as they come. Just so happy I found him, and it wasn’t an injured deer running around.
As I finished up my bow season in Missouri, I never had a chance at a turkey. I saw plenty but it wasn’t in the cards.
During my stay in Missouri the landowner came over for a couple of days and he invited me and my daughter to rifle hunt the Missouri rifle season. There was no way I could say no. I really needed to get Ella over there to experience this place. I asked her if she was willing to head to Missouri on the November 10th and hunt on the 11th and 12th and come home. She was up for it, so I bought her tags and decided to just concentrate on trying to get her her first buck.
As I was getting ready to pack up on the 10th, my good friend Tim Conover called, he had a nice 12 pointer he harvested out of one of the new stand setups so he asked if I could come help load the deer which I obliged. So far, my group of friends and family have been successful this season. I have one friend Al Schackow who is do so fingers crossed hopefully another buck story next month.
We headed on Friday the 10th around noon for our adventure. We were both excited to spend some time in the woods together. I cherish every moment I can spend with my kids. They grow up so fast and you always wish you would have done more with them. We arrived at deer camp, and we unloaded our truck and introduced ourselves to the others at deer camp. It was nice to see some new people and get to hear some of the great stories that have taken place on the property. Although I think Ella was more excited that she was able to talk to someone who plays DND and has been so since the 70’s. Those two got in a conversation and you could see the excitement on Ella’s face. I on the other hand had no clue what they were talking about.
The first morning arrived and it was another nice cool morning with a fresh frost. My anticipation was through the roof. We headed to my favorite location so Ella could see all of the turkeys and watch the sunrise. It was a magical morning with turkey all over, squirrels playing, coons roaming, and deer roaming in all directions. We saw 15 deer the first morning but not one was a mature buck. We watched many deer eat in front of us and wander away. We enjoyed the day and headed in for lunch at 11am. We went to town and grabbed some food at the local gas station then headed back out for the afternoon hunt.
We saw a few deer across the field from where we sat that morning and Ella really wanted to go there. We did see what we thought were a little bigger deer hanging over there, so we gave it a shot. The afternoon was a little slow, the temperatures were in the 50’s and it was more like a good fishing day than a hunting afternoon. We saw a few does, and right before dark we had a young six pointer come in. At first, I thought it was a good size doe so I was going to let her shoot. The last thing I wanted was her to go home empty handed and she did have a doe permit as well. In the county we were hunting it has to have at least four points on one side to be legal to shoot. I really like this rule. You don’t have your forks and small sixes getting plunked every year. I really does help the overall deer herd size. Now the one exception is youth season, during youth season that doesn’t apply but it does for regular rifle season.
Now I was getting nervous. We are down to our last day of hunting and in reality, we just weren’t seeing the big boys on their feet. Even big does seem to be nonexistent. We weren’t ready to give up yet.
We crashed early on Saturday night to get rested for a full day of hunting on Sunday before we had to head back to reality. We woke up at 4:30am and started to get ready for our last day. After thinking about this sometime, I really wanted to go back to where I harvested my deer a week earlier. That area seemed to be where the bigger deer were showing up and luckily Larry, the gentleman whose stand it was, allowed us to use it on our last day of hunting. He could have easily gone there if he wanted to but he insisted we go ahead and hunt there since it was our last day and he would be there all week.
We arrived at the stand and were all set up with 15 minutes to shooting light. Everything was in place it was a cool and very calm morning. We were in the stand for half an hour and the first deer came walking out. A smaller doe being followed by a decent buck. I grunted a couple of time, and the doe came down to about 80 yards but the buck stayed about 125 yards out and I was wanting to get her a little easier shot than that. Neither one of us uses rifles very often so I wanted her to be sure of her shot.
As the little doe worked its way into the woods to the north of us, I looked back to my right where my buck came from the week before and here came a really nice doe. I told Ella it will walk out right there at 20 yards. Go ahead and smoke it and at least we will have some meat from this adventure. She aims, the doe is at 14 yards, and the gun goes click. I was like what the hell was going on. I ejected the shell and let it close, but she was long gone by then. I was so upset, and I could see tears forming in Ella’s eyes. I felt so horrible that it happened, but I didn’t know why.
About 20 minutes later another medium sized doe came walking down the hill I told Ella to get a good aim and when she was comfortable to go ahead and pull the trigger. Click. WTF. Now I am pissed what the hell is going on. It was an AR shooting a 223. Unfortunately, I am not as familiar with rifles as I am other guns, so I had no idea. I grabbed it, racked it and told her to try again and click. Three damn times, I guessed the gun was broke. I told Ella let’s give it another half hour before we go in. I took the gun and racked it back tossing the shell out and letting it fly back closed. All I can do is hope that worked. I wasn’t confident but what choice did I have.
You can only have 5 bullets in the magazine and didn’t have any other bullets with me so at this point we were down two bullets with three remaining. No clue where the other landed and at that point didn’t care. I will buy them new ones.
About a half an hour goes by, and then I see a nice 8 point about 150 yards away going across the ridge. I grabbed my grunt call and hit him with three grunts. That big ole dude stopped, and I swear looked right at us. I went ahead and gave him an aggressive grunt and his head hit the ground and started running to us. He came all the way down to 50 yards and I was trying everything to get him to stop. He slowed down and Wack! the gun went off. He kicked like a mule and turned and was going back to our north and I couldn’t see an exit hole or any blood. I thought surely, she didn’t miss that deer. She is actually a better shot than me, so I asked her if she felt good about the shot, and she said yes, I was right on it and steady. I said OK, lets give him a little and we will go look.
Ella was beside herself thinking maybe she missed, and I wasn’t sure but the reaction sure seemed like a lung shot. She couldn’t handle the adrenaline rush and needed to go look for blood. I said you can go out where you shot him and look but not any farther. She got out of the stand and went to looking; I could see her demeanor changing. She thought she must of missed, because there was no blood. I saw him cut into the woods about 60 yards north of us but I never saw him cross the gully. He either went in the woods and headed straight north or he didn’t go that far, but I wasn’t sure. We waited for an hour, and I looked at Ella said are you ready. Of course she was ready, she was ready two seconds after the shot.
We got down out the stand and headed to the shot location. Nothing absolutely nothing. My heart sank, I walked the path he took and there was not one drop of blood. Ella’s face was breaking my heart. I told her, lets keep looking, sometimes they take a few yards to start bleeding good. We continued on the path with not a speck of blood. I get to the woods where he went in and there he laid. Not even 15 feet into the woods, was Ella’s first buck. When I saw it lying there all I could do was jump up and down trying not to scream to mess up other hunters. Ella was looking at me like what are you doing, and I said he is right here and she went nuts. What a great moment. I was crying, she was crying, it was one of the best emotional moment of my life. She is still on cloud nine as I am. It took a few hours for her adrenaline to settle. We came home and dropped him off and the locker and I will be taking it over to the taxidermist. Such an amazing moment with my daughter that is forever ingrained in my memory. Can’t wait to make many more with her, my boy Gabe, and hopefully some grandkids in the next few years.
Shotgun season is next weekend so stay tuned in January for another adventure.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!
(Editors note: IT’S ME!! ELLA!! I GOT THE BUCK! I DID IT!!! WOOOOOO!! I have to edit my dad’s articles because I am better at English lol)